I’ve been wanting to watch Dream Eater Merry for years now. Not that I heard much about it, I just saw the first episode once and it caught my interest, so I put it on the “To Watch” list, figured I’d get around to it eventually. Now that I have, I can say, there certainly wasn’t any need to rush.
Yumeji Fujiwara is a high school boy who can see people’s auras and predict their dreams. On the same day he meets (because she falls on him from a tree) a girl named Merry Nightmare, a nightmare of his own comes to life in the middle of the day. It turns out, it wasn’t just a dream, but the world of a dream demon trying to possess Yumeji’s body. The boy only escapes because Merry, also a dream demon, crashes the party and beats the would-be possessor in combat. Where her opponent is trying to enter the real world, Merry wants to go the other direction, to go home, but it seems no one can help her. Afterward, Yumeji decides to help Merry since she saved his life. The two form a partnership and a friendship as they deal with other dream demons, some of them friendly, most of them not, every step taking them closer to an elusive truth about Merry’s own identity.
It’ a pretty decent premise, but they executed it all wrong, at least in the anime. I can’t speak for the manga.
First, I want to mention what I liked, what I thought was good.
I liked the characters, for the most part. I liked how Yumeji was always trying to help, how Merry was strong and endured everything, how their friends and family all related to each other. I liked the secondary characters, the guy who was always writing funny little poems and the girl that was always with them, and I especially liked how their relationship was developing towards something more romantic. I like the adult who was watching over all these youngsters, how he was so steady and reliable and shared his wisdom with them. And I loved how Merry loved donuts so much! It was so cute!
I definitely liked the technical aspects of the show. The animation was smooth and appealing, and creative as we entered all these dream worlds. I watched the English dub, and the voice acting was superb, and it’s one of the things that drew me in the most. The music wasn’t bad either, though the timing of it, and the balance with the voice work, was a bit off at times, it sometimes drowned out what people were actually saying.
I liked the idea, and I like the running theme they had of hopes and dreams, even if it was a bit of a stretch to link literal dreams with figurative ones, with goals and passions and such. It was even more of a stretch to say that a dream demon inserted into a person like a parasite into a host became so entwined with their dreams and hopes for the future that removing them also removed those hopes, even their very soul. I never got how that worked.
I liked what they were trying to do, I think, but they were a bit clumsy going about it. The fights, for instance, were much more drama than action, not remotely realistic. The narrative structure was pretty weak, especially with as many seeds as were planted early on, with far too little harvesting later. The mysteries were pretty obvious, though no one solved them and some answers were never given. Speaking of, the entire show came out as pretty anticlimactic, even when they failed to properly build the suspense. They clearly intended to have a second season, but they didn’t, so the story barely begins before the anime ends, which is a particular pet peeve of mine. Heck, they didn’t even explain anything about any of the villains and why they were so evil.
The show has some grand ideas for what is wants to be, and it has its good points, but it has some severe issues, including poorly-scripted action, weakness of plot structure and thematic elements, and some technical aspects. It’s enjoyable in its way, not terrible, but still pretty bad for everything it lacks, and everything it could have been.
Rating: 7 stars out of 10.